The Middle Wall Broken Down

John 4  •  8 min. read  •  grade level: 6
John 4
"He that ascended is the same that descended, that he might fill all things." (Eph. 4) A Lamb was seen in the midst of the throne; (Rev. 5;) a Lamb, too, as it had been slain. It is He who purged our sins here, that is on high set down on the right hand of the majesty. (Heb. 1) The one who was in. the form of God became obedient unto death. (Phil. 2)
Such passages tell of elevation and of lowliness together; full, ineffable nearness to God, and yet perfect nearness to us. It is as God and man in one Christ. The history of the blessed One is, thus, like His Person.
Mystery of mysteries! and yet the needed fact on which all depends, all of God's glory in us, and of our blessing in Him forever.
The first chapter of John combines with these thoughts. Christ is there traced from the Godhead to the altar; and in touching these extreme points, He is seen to occupy all the interval. He is the Creator of all things-the life and the light. The world was made by Him, and Israel were His own people. Made flesh, He dwelt among us, the declarer of God, full of grace and truth. He is the Son in the bosom of the Father. He is the One that Was before John; and yet, with all this, He was baptized by John. And to bring Him fully down to the extremest point of lowliness, He is the Lamb slain for the sin of the world.
In such titles and characters, we trace the Lord along this chapter. Extremes meet in Him. He is God, and yet the Lamb on the altar. Thus is He seen in His Person.
We then trace Him in His ministry, very much after the same manner, (in the next chapters, 2-4.) from the highest elevation of ministerial power and glory, till He reaches the most marvelous condescendings of ministerial grace. As Lord of creation, He turns water into wine, not merely supplying but creating provisions for a feast. He is then, as Lord of life and death, saying, " Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up." Then, as the One who knows the thoughts long before, like God searching the heart, we read of Him, "He needed not that any should testify of man, for he knew what was in man." Then coming, as it were, out from the glory into the grace of ministry, He waits upon a poor, slow-hearted, timid soul, that sought Him by night, be- cause' Gideon-like, he was afraid to seek Him by day. And at last, He seeks a poor outcast, and that, too, in the sweetest, richest condescension. He will be her debtor for the meanest of all gifts, a cup of cold water, that He may win her confidence. He will have all the secrets of her conscience out, that He may get Himself and His healing in. Wondrous!. The One who began this course of ministry, as God turning the water into wine, here at the end of it appears as One who needed for Himself a cup of cold water at the hand of a stranger.
What a path is this!
But it is not merely the perfection of ministerial grace that is seen in this last action, the fullness of divine strength and glory is also in it. This asking for a cup of cold water was just what none could have done but God Himself.
Does this surprise us? It may at first, as the burning bush surprised Moses. But by listening and worshipping, we may find God in this action, as surely as Moses found Him in that bush.
God Himself, at the very beginning had raised a partition wall between Himself and His revolted creature. The cherubim at the gate of the garden, with his flaming sword, keeping every way the way of the tree of life, was as a partition wall. The difference between clean and unclean, set up and instituted in the earliest patriarchal times, was the same. (See Gen. 8:2020And Noah builded an altar unto the Lord; and took of every clean beast, and of every clean fowl, and offered burnt offerings on the altar. (Genesis 8:20).) And the same middle wall was but strengthened by a thousand hands, under the direction of the lawgiver afterward, God's holiness demanding this testimony to itself in a polluted, departed world. God could not own such a dead and defiled thing. But God's grace found out a way whereby to bring His banished home to Him. That is, He has found out a way whereby He might be just while the Justifier of a sinner. This is His glory, His own glory. "There is no God else beside me, a just God and a Savior, there is none beside me." He who raised the middle wall alone can break it down. But this He has done. This He did by the cross, by the blood of His own Lamb. As soon as that was shed, as soon as the life, the eternal life, was yielded up, in sacrifice and for reconciliation, God Himself broke down all partition walls. The nail of the temple was rent from top to bottom, the rocks were rent also, and the graves of the saints were broken up. This great vista was thrown wide open, from the high heavens to the place of the power of death. Both the Tail and the grave gave way, when Jesus gave up the ghost. The brightness of the highest heavens beamed upon the eye of the captives of death.
This virtue of the cross is, accordingly, now, in this gospel age, declared. " He is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition, having abolished in his flesh the enmity." And again, " blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross." This is the great fact published by the gospel, in order that sinners, believing that God Himself has done this, has, in grace, crossed the boundary which separated us from Him, might, by faith, cross it after Him, and meet Him in the place of reconciliation.
Now, this is the very thing that the Lord Jesus is doing at the well of Sychar. A partition-wall was there. The Jews had no dealings with the Samaritans. Rightly so. The Lord Himself had said to the twelve, "into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not." God had raised all partition-walls, whether by the ordinances of the law, among the circumcised patriarchs, or by the sword of the cherubim at the gate of Eden. And no hand of man or angel could, by his own authority, or in his own strength, touch a stone of such a building. David attempted it, and he failed. (2 Sam. 14) But God would not have one stone of it upon another; and here, at the well of Sychar, Jesus anticipates that. He crosses the boundary. He asks drink of one who was a woman of Samaria. This was breaking down middle walls with a strong hand, and crossing boundary lines with a firm step. But He who had raised them in righteousness can break them down in grace through righteousness. And that is what Jesus actually does in the cross, and what He anticipates here.
All this was enough to amaze her who was on the opposite side-and it did so. She sees the ruin of the wall, and she marvels. But the Lord did not build again that which He had destroyed, but encourages her to do as He had done. In divine grace He had crossed the line from God's side of it, and he would fain draw her from that side of it where sinners lay in their separation from God. And He accomplishes this.
But it is always the conscience that must do this. It is conscience that has put us on the other side. Conscience put Adam within the trees of the garden, and it is that which keeps us all " short of the glory of God," or of the divine presence in peace.
It is, therefore, the conscience that must cross the boundary, and it is that which Jesus brings across it on this occasion. He exposes her to herself, He convicts her, He lets her know all things that ever she did; but it is in that very character that she reaches Him. (See ver. 29.)
Have we crossed it, as she did? with all the recollections of conscience, without keeping back a secret, have we reached Him? If His glory were to break full in the twinkling of an eye, are we conscious, this moment, that we should not "come short" of it? As in spirit we sometimes sing:-
" The day of glory bearing
Its brightness far and near,
The day of Christ's appearing
We now no longer fear."
This is, indeed, with this sinner of Samaria, to be on the right side of the boundary line, to be treading, with firm foot, on the ruin of all partition-walls, in His peace, ul presence now, and looking to be in His glorious presence forever.